Sunday, 30 September 2012


Colder here than there - brrrr

           Sorry, it's been one of those weeks where there's not much to say so there's little else I can do today but recommend that you go visit The Insects That Are Not Aliens Surfing Club - not your usual surf site, wonderful pictures that either are or seem to be out of time, strange films, warped words and a good slab of 'sixties garage bands from this Australian site which shows the mellower outsider side of the scene... makes you want to be in off the rocks or hanging by the beach ....but in a paisley shirt that would get you beaten up at most of the breaks I ever surfed when I was there. Leave it on in the background and you've got good music to (not) work by...

          It's a bit coals to Newcastle (NSW) but this one's for brother Kent down on the flip side, keep up the good work....

Monday, 24 September 2012

Ain't It Funny....

          Well, hello there…. it’s been one of those weekends – a weekend of clearing, decluttering, throwing out, trashing and generally trying to reinvent a room. The weather helped at first, it was gloomy, rain-lashed, grey and decidedly stay-indoors. My mood started enthusiastically but got more and more like the weather as the day wore on and the boxes of forgotten stuff poured out onto the rather over-designed faux Axminster carpet. It was perhaps a day which was better in the approach than the execution and which left me feeling more like closing the doors than throwing them open with a newly discovered pride at the possibilities of the room.

          The room in question is currently a combination of deep wine-red and vivid lime green walls, with gold skirting and picture rails – that perhaps tells you all you need to know about how long it has been since it was last decorated. It housed the pc and the vinyl, many books and a desperately underused dark wood piano (that piano just has to go). I intend to make it into my bedroom. The vinyl will of course stay, as will most of the books. The outsize and out of date pc is off to the tip. The piano…well, it will go one day just as soon as I can find someone who will drag it down two lots of steps to a better home.

          The weather slowly insinuated its way into this already dark room as I worked on it – despite moving out the huge computer desk the room never seemed to get any clearer. Despite filling two boxes with belongings that are not mine, ready to move them on, the bookcases never had any more space. Every now and then an old photo would drop out of a book or from between record sleeves and remind me that there was once this person who looked a bit like me and who seemed to be having a good time with some people that looked a bit like some people I used to know….

          So I wired up the decks and pulled out some vinyl – sometimes it’s the only sane solution.

          Playing The Miracles and The Impressions was a start, but they never seemed to hit the spot as the rain battered the back door. Then I came across this one below – not having played it for possibly decades – and I remembered just how good it was and just how Chuck Prophet had made me put aside all my prejudices about country music and opened up the road to Gram Parsons and beyond. It’s not what most people who know me would readily volunteer as my listening choice, but was it good – damn it was good!

          Perhaps it was the iron grey skies – but when you’re down and out there’s sometimes nothing like a bit of suicidally bleak country music to lighten the mood and even if it’s only good because you know that others have suffered too, and hopefully more, then it’s as soulful as anything that you’d hear from James Brown and you can hear just why Otis veered this way so often.

          Plus it has the advantage – certainly that first track, that hoary old Willie Nelson standard – that time will indeed bring about it’s own revenge. Often covered, but rarely bettered in bitterness and explicit threat than on this version. It’s quite the anthem on a desolate day like yesterday. The second is just the way that weather made me feel..

          Ladies and gentlemen, I’d love to put the whole record up here but for now just two selections that made the cold rain and the old photographs that much more bearable.

          The room is still a mess however… perhaps I’ll go back in there in the springtime….

Monday, 17 September 2012

Dead Man's Curves


           Help !

          Please tell me that I’ve not turned into a petrol-head, but I seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time talking about cars recently – and here I go again. I’d like to say first that I never knowingly watch Top Gear and cannot stand the reactionary ranting of the terribly unfunny Jeremy Clarkson (made even more foul now I know he’s a neighbour and friend of the Camerons…). What’s more, at the other end of the political spectrum, I have to for once disagree with Billy Bragg when he sings

          ‘It doesn't matter the colour of the car, But what goes on beneath the bonnet’

          Frankly it’s the opposite – I don’t care about the workings of greasy pistons and oily axles, it’s the finish of the paint, the polish of the chrome and the sleekness of the wings that does it for me every time. White walls and walnut dashboard. Style over substance. It is, quite honestly, the mod in me….

          So, after dropping Tin Two at university at the weekend I got caught up in a traffic jam, not normally a good thing but on this occasion it was a traffic jam coming out of Goodwood racing circuit and hundreds of the cars on both sides of the road were classic fifties and sixties sports cars, polished, shining and out for the sheer hell of showing off. There were MGs, Jags, Austin Healeys and more – some so obscure that I hadn’t a clue, but all of them were extremely pleasing to the eye and I’m sure there wasn’t an Astra or Mondeo driver on the road who wouldn’t have sold his or her soul to swap. If they wouldn’t then it would be purely because they had no soul to start with.

          I wasn’t in the MG sadly – I felt invisible.

          As the traffic jam started to break up I found myself behind and then alongside a wonderful green and cream E-Type Jaguar. I know all the theories about bonnet length and male inadequacy but surely this is one of the more gorgeous pieces of British engineering and more than that, it screams 1960s from it’s very core. Every band that could afford it seems to have had a photo shoot in one of these, George Harrison owned one, the coolest film stars drove them and – by way of trivia, it’s the only British car to have made it into a sixties surf/hot rod song – it’s the ill-fated XJS mentioned in Jan and Dean’s ‘Dead Man’s Curve’. Then there’s ‘Danger Diabolik’ – a very cool/camp (take your pick) Italian spy film very much in the modernist groove – think Barbarella or Modesty Blaise, whose eponymous hero drives a jet black E Type. Even Fender tried to trade on a bit of the car’s cool, as if they didn’t think that they could match up.

          And the unifying factor with all these cars – every driver looked like they were enjoying the drive and everyone they passed smiled. That’s got to make it worth keeping them going. I doubt that in fifty years time a 2009 Ford Focus or even a modern Jag is going to have the same effect.

          Now if you want to waste hours - I discovered this new site today the Internet Movie Car Database - now if you think us music geeks are, well, geeky, you should have a look at this - car geeks (sorry, enthusiasts) who have logged every scene that they come across featuring a car and then identified it.... I spent a good deal of time today looking at where all the cars I've owned have featured in films....once you start you won't stop, sorry !

And here's the appropriate music from Boys Wonder turned pretend sixties hipsters on Acid Jazz...

Friday, 14 September 2012

Yes I'm proud of you now !

          Well, the eldest boy Tin has had a week of to university tomorrow to enjoy the delights of all that Fresher's week has to offer. I try not to think of it all too much, partly because it makes me feel too old knowing that I now have two kids at university, but partly because I know exactly what his bleached blonde head has itself set on doing..... He's sharing a house with three of his closest mates from school who somehow all ended up there - I still haven't worked out if that should be reassuring or worrying...

          He also passed his driving test today at the second attempt - I'm very proud and he's probably quite smug, he knows it took me more times than that (I shan't reveal how many more...but suffice to say that one attempt ended when I nearly  ran a traffic cop down, with him having to jump out of the way at the last moment).

          I think it's only fitting that I should post the song below as some sort of tribute to him and to all the other students starting university for the first time over the next few weeks - don't believe a word of what they say about it being easy to get in these days. It takes hard work and some amount of determination, not least because of all those bastard politicians and leader writers telling everyone how easy it is. This is one of his favourite bands and he's been to see them a number of times - he'd be seeing them play locally on monday night if only he wasn't off to university - I think he's quite sad about that.

          Now emo/metal (I don't know what it is - I'm far too old) isn't really my cup of tea, but then again I'm always pleased that each new generation gets off on its own screamy thrashy guitar music and he's no exception. I mean would it be better if he listened to Adele or Rihanna instead? Of course not.

          So enjoy - or not. It isn't for you anyway !

Monday, 10 September 2012

Cars and Girls

          Well, inspired by C's tale on Sun Dried Sparrows and e.f.'s follow up comments, as well as by the hard work being done over at LSORO Again I'm going to come out.

          In fact, better than that - I thought I'd show you some pictures of one of my loves. Actually two of them. I spent the afternoon with the camera out in the back alley getting them tastefully pushed up against the fence, stripped back, top off... That's right, now if you'd just show me some leather, perhaps let me get a shot of the sun glancing off your rear. Oh yeah baby, now you over there, let me see you with that leash...

          OK, enough ! There might be children watching. You know what I'm talking about anyway, this just isn't that sort of blog !

          Now much as I really honestly think of most things I own as just so much stuff, these two give me inordinate amounts of pleasure just from the sheer loveliness of looking at them, let alone using them. Which is just as well really since the board, which I must have had for twenty years, tends to travel with me but hardly ever gets used these days.

          The car on the other hand is a relatively new possession but with a bit of a back story in my life. I bought my first racing green MG Midget when I was 19 - the raison d'etre was that I was getting fed up with my friends cadging lifts when all I wanted to do was be out with my then girlfriend. The answer, buy a two seater. It worked and even though me and the then girlfriend didn't last forever my love of the Midget did. Scroll forwards a few years and I'd moved down South, met the woman who I later married and we bought another racing green Midget, that lasted until the first of the Tins was on the way and the sad fact dawned on us that we couldn't carry three of us in it had to the 9 month stage.... Twenty years on and I'm solo again, I see this car in the local garage and just have to have it... you can call it a mid life crisis if you want to but I prefer the term enduring love.

          When I got the car at 19 I thought it was an old model then. It was only two years older than this one...

          But the course of true love never did run smooth and a few weeks on I'm driving down the motorway, top down, wind in what passes for my hair, 70 mph and a noise like a machine gun comes from under the bonnet. Towed into the garage. The fateful words "Big end gone mate". I don't even know what a big end is, but I knew it was expensive and potentially fatal.

          I couldn't do it, we'd only just met. I took a deep breath, stroked her curved wings lovingly, looked into her headlamps and agreed to part with half as much again as I'd paid for her and get a new engine....

          Now she's back - she purrs, she runs beautifully, she has a DAB radio ! So who cares what anyone thinks, we'll grow old disgracefully together, at least for as long as I can afford to. And maybe I'll get that board back in the water too now the autumn swells are coming in.

I hope you like the pictures.

And despite all the tunes to choose from there was never much competition to this one that dates from around about the same time as the first MG - Does heaven wait, all heavenly, over the next horizon ?

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Rhinos, small children, death and surfing...

          The other week I was lucky enough to have a friend staying over who bought his four year old son with him - now I know that isn't everyone's cup of tea but since my Tins are way into their teens nowadays it was a rare privilege. Not least because I'd forgotten how good it is to have a solid intellectual discussion where you just can't get away with the normal bullshit - four year olds demand nothing less than your honest opinion. In this instance I volunteered to read the bedtime story (more of which in a minute) and ended up having a full on hour long discussion about death and what lies beyond the veil.....

          Not for a four year old any religious platitudes or ideas of an afterlife - nope, he wanted to know exactly what happened to foxes, badgers and grandad after they died. It's trickier than you think to explain this. I did make the mistake of telling him that our tortoises would outlive him...then of course he made it personal ! Anyway, it stretched my brain but I hopefully came to some satisfactory conclusion with him and left having much deeper thoughts than I'd gone in with.

          And apologies to his dad for giving his son the impression that badgers might appear in the bedroom at any time and thus making him wake up in the night....but that's another story for another time.

          Stories of course are the other brilliant thing about having a four year old over. Reading aloud and picture books are easily as much a pleasure for me as it is for the children and it gave me an excuse to indoctrinate him with what has to be one of my favourite kid's books. I've always thought that children's books can be a higher art form than many of their more serious high art relations, they have to tread the fine line between being colourful and interesting whilst never patronising or talking down. Plus, they have such an incredible influence on the rest of our lives - I doubt if psychedelia would ever have flourished had not the protagonists and the listeners been brought up on the wildly weird children's books of their generation. Everyone seems to have a favourite childrens's book and they do have a profound influence on how we see the world.

          One thing that's always interested me as well is why the artist usually gets credited below / after the writer. I appreciate that it's a skill to say something meaningful, funny or thought provoking in so few words, but it's always the pictures that stick with me. Give the artists their due - they deserve it. They also work damn hard for it.

          Anyway I digress. The book in question the other night was the rather fabulous Rhinos Who Surf by Julie Mammano (and for the record she writes and illustrates the books) which I picked up in a bargain book shop many years ago when the kids were very young and used it to encourage them to follow me into the water... it seems to have worked ! The rhinos are great big psychedelic waterborne dudes who speak surf dude speak and take on the waves in some style - it's a great book and never fails to enchant - I can commend it even if you don't have children ! It's great art served up with no need to proclaim itself as such.

          Anyway - below are a few excerpts just to give a flavour..

          One word of warning here for those of you in the UK - you might need to explain that your kids should, in later life, be discouraged from 'Dropping in', it means something different over here and might end up in some nasty confrontations....but for now enjoy the mondo waves !

And this of course demands some surf music - although I wouldn't recommend this one from '63 as good way of getting small children to sleep. It is of course on the wonderful Rhino Records


Friday, 7 September 2012

Back to reality


           Kids back at school this week, the logistics of getting them off to after school stuff starting to happen as well,  maybe that's why it feels like the end of the summer even though the sun has come out again.

          And it's probably why I'm so bloody tired.....

          So all you're getting today is the best Brit soul tune of the eighties (and well beyond) - it makes me feel better at the end of the day at least and I'm a sucker for that house piano sound...


Sunday, 2 September 2012


           I just heard (on the radio appropriately) that Hal David has died. As a kid I grew up with David/Bacharach songs without even knowing it and when I was old enough to know I sort of wrote them off as middle of the road... pretty stupid yeah ? Nowadays I appreciate them more all the time. Whether it's Isaac Hayes or Elvis Costello, The Carpenters, Paul Weller, Bobbie Gentry, Dionne Warwick or Aretha performing them, even the Stranglers version of Walk On By, they take me someplace else.

          There will be enough tributes and blog entries about the man who wrote some of the most fantastic lyrics going so I won't even try - but this one is special to me, it's the song that my mum used to sing when she was doing things around the house, ironing, cleaning, making my meals and hanging out the washing. I wonder sometimes what she invested in it. It's the song that brings her immediately to mind.

          It makes me cry whenever I hear it nowadays. So for Hal and my mum - I hope you're singing it together. I think I get it now mum, and I'm listening and choking up.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Beastly Belloc

          This book lurks in one of the young Tin's rooms - a testament to the staying power of nonsense and eccentric drawings that even though he's well into teenage years and the book is around 130 years old it's still much loved and even occasionally read. In fact I quite like to dip in when the mood strikes too. Apart from the wonderful contents the copy that I have is very old, bound in cardboard and held together with yellowing sellotape, the pages almost brittle - it feels like a real book, a book that's been passed around, read by many and has some stories of its own wrapped up somewhere just beyond the printed paper.

          The drawings are also fabulous - BTB is Basil Temple Blackwood and although this post isn't about him you just have to look at the pictures to get some idea that he wasn't exactly conforming to the norm.

          If you've never read any Hilaire Belloc then I'd urge you to do so - certainly 'Cautionary Tales' was a bit of a standard when I was a kid but he did much else besides. I was pointed in his direction as an adult by none other than Attila The Stockbroker, who was certainly a massive fan and I'm very grateful for that. Belloc's books for children are wonderful and inhabit a strange knowingly innocent world; rather like Roald Dahl he never patronises or sugar-coats but see's what children see. His books for adults are, if possible, even weirder - I've not read too many but what sticks with me is his sheer partisanship, he never makes any bones about his own likes and dislikes, prejudices and fovouritisms - you don't have to agree with them but he makes you see them as curious, funny and even a little insane and you realise that these are vwhat make us who we are. For a French born writer, with a French father and an English mother, he has a strangely strong and specific patriotism - he's proud to be from Sussex and makes no bones about the fact that the men of Sussex, and West Sussex in particular, stand above the world and are superior in every way. I think it's in his book 'The Four Men' that he takes this to extremes (I could be wrong there because somewhere along the way these books disappeared from my shelves). Oddly however he represented France at sailing....

          He also represented Salford as an MP for the Liberal Party back in the days when that actually meant anything - I dread to think what he would make of its successors - probably suggest feeding them to zoo animals, slowly. He distrusted the whole party system anyway - with that I think he'd find many fellow travellers today.

          Finally, if you're in any doubt as to the man's influence - Syd Barrett was a big fan and 'Matilda Mother' on Piper at the Gates of Dawn was originally taken straight from the Belloc poem in Cautionary Tales...but was rewritten when Belloc's estate objected to the use of his words.

          Anyway I just wanted to share just some of the wildly wonderful and strange pages of this book - if you want to read the whole thing (which will take five minutes but last a lifetime) then you can see / download it here at Project Gutenberg - but its no substitute for finding a good crumbling real copy one day...

As a thank you to Attila here he is doing an Hilaire Belloc inspired cautionary tale - taking careful aim at Steven/Seething Wells ....

And just for completeness here's that alternative version of Matilda Mother